7 Tips for Public Toddler Tantrums
Photos by Briana Lindsey Photography
I mentioned yesterday over on Instagram that Ava was sick. Like really sick. I know that crazy bad flu is going around and we're heading off for vacation on Friday for my sister's 30th birthday so I was pretty nervous that this was going to turn out to be a week long fiasco and we were going to have to miss our trip to Tahoe. Not to mention, I wanted to cry at least 34 times yesterday seeing her like that. It broke my mama heart.
But today, she's as good as new. Weird, right?! She woke up with no fever and is as happy as can be, like you never would have guessed that in less than 24 hours she went from having a 105 degree fever to absolutely nothing. No coughing, no runny nose, no fever, nothing.
I'm pretty stoked to see her beautiful smile again and to get back to our normal routine, aka not being cooped up inside the house all day long and actually being able to get up off of the couch since she nursed on me literally all day yesterday. And my normal routine typically includes a trip to Target (you probably could've guessed that!) so today we headed out to our favorite place to shop the dollar section for new toys to pull out on our plane ride on Friday. Yep, this is my best tip for traveling with toddlers and I'll blog a little more about that later but today, I'm talking all about toddler tantrums.
We seem to make it out of the house less and less as Ava grows older. This is the exact opposite of what I thought would happen because you know, I'd never ever have a kid through a tantrum in Target. I'd never be THAT mom. I'd have a well-behaved little girl who walked next to me quietly and politely, never tried to run away into another aisle, who never tried to pull all of the candy out of the checkout line and I'd definitely never have a child who threw herself on the ground, face first, screaming at the top of her lungs while strangers passed me by just staring, because her baby doll's shoe fell off and she wanted it back on NOW.
I'd never have that kind of kid. (Hah!)
Welp, much to my first time mom surprise, that's my sweet little Ava, pretty much ever trip to Target and not even a tub of goldfish or a cake pop from Starbucks keeps her busy and satisfied for even 20 minutes. I've now reached the screaming toddler tantrum stage and it's kept us from running errands together as often as we used to.
So here's the thing:
Today, she was a little angel in Target. She didn't scream, didn't ask to get out of the cart, didn't stand up and try to jump out of the cart by herself, and didn't even try to touch anything. She was the perfect toddler I always imagined and I'll be honest, that's probably the only reason I'm able to write a post like this today. You know, because I've got a tantrum-free clear mind.
I'm not saying this is "the way to parent" because I'm far from perfect but from one mama to another, here's what I do when the toddler tantrum strikes.
1. Physical Presence
I've got a kid who hates being touched when she's mad or sad or throwing a tantrum. She wants nothing to do with me or anyone, for that matter, and she just wants to be alone. <<She totally inherited that from me.>>
So while I know she wants to be left alone, I also want to show her that I'm there for her, physically. So I always pick her up and give her a hug and when she launches herself away from me and yells "no more!" in my face, I put her down and let her be.
2. Speak to Them
Next I always verbally let her know I'm there. At least I've covered the physical and the verbal at this point, just in case her current need for comfort has changed. She may not fully understand it, but I always say, "Okay Ava, let me know when you're ready for mama." That way, she knows I'm still there for her when she's ready.
3. Ask them to Communicate
I ask her to use her words and let me know what's wrong so I can help her. I know, I know -- She cannot communicate full sentences to me yet but I really think this is an important step in her learning that she can come to me for help and it's important for her to be able to communicate her frustrations in life for the rest of her life. This is one hint I'm terrible at -- I bottle everything up inside and don't say a peep and in my marriage, that's been one of our greatest obstacles. So I'm doing my best to teach Ava to communicate her feelings, as best I can at such a young age.
4. Stay calm + remember that this is temporary.
Hah! I stay calm on the outside, that is, to show her (and the rest of the strangers passing by) that I have this under control. But deep down inside, I panic every time. I get embarrassed and I get angry and mad and overwhelmed and my heart races and then I start sweating from frustration. But I really really try to stay calm from the outside, to ensure she sees my level of calm. Because my emotions alway seems to rub off on her so that's my number one priority.
Oh yeah, and remember that this is only temporary. I'm thinking I should keep one of these sweet photos of her with me at all times, to remind myself how perfect she is, even when she's throwing a tantrum. Good idea, you think?
5. Let them yell it out.
So this one totally depends on where we are. Of course, if we were in a library or a movie theatre I'd swoop her up and let her finish her tantrum elsewhere because I want to be respectful of those around me. But typically, this just makes the tantrum last longer. But when I sit next to her and let her finish her anger, she usually asks for me to pick her up within a minute of the tantrum's start time.
Of course that's doesn't happen every time, but it typically works like a charm and if not, I carry her on my hip and don't say a word to her until she's ready for me to help.
6. Know that you're not alone.
Every mom goes through this, I promise you, and no matter what looks you get out in public or what people may say to you, just know that you're doing the best to parent your children. And it happens to everyone.
I repeat, everyone.
7. Do what works best for each individual child.
I know that every child is different and while Ava doesn't like to be consoled physically, I may one day have a kid who just wants a hug. So tailor your reaction to the needs of your kids.
I'm not perfect and even if I was, Ava would still throw tantrums. But by far my best success to ending the tantrum quickly and respectfully is to let her do her thing and then sooner than expected, she's done and we can go on with our day. And for the times when that doesn't work...well, I need your help on that because I haven't quite figured it out yet.
Head over to my Instagram page (@theoverwhelmedmommy) and I'd love to hear your advice and best practices on the dreaded public toddler tantrum!